So what are those who download the Windows 8 CP likely to encounter?
Those who already have downloaded and have been testing the early Windows 8 bits (the Developer Preview, released in September 2011) will have different expectations than those downloading Windows 8 Consumer Preview bits for the first time. Those who've been test-driving the bits and studying the thousands (and thousands) of words in every "Building Windows 8" blog post authored by the Windows 8 team are most likely going to be looking for user interface tweaks. They'll be watching to see, as former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson put it in a recent blog post, "Can Windows 8 Metro succeed on the desktop?"
Testers using the Developer Preview haven't gotten a good perspective on how Metro-style apps will work on Windows 8 because only a few sample apps were available in conjunction with the preview bits. Microsoft is expected to release more Metro-style apps with the Windows 8 CP -- and to open its promised Windows 8 app store at the same time.
Those who will be downloading for the first time the Windows 8 bits with the Consumer Preview won't have early Developer Preview experiences and expectations against which to compare. Some who have used or seen Windows Phones will likely see the Consumer Preview, with its Metro-inspired Start Screen as similar in look and feel. Those who've seen and used the Windows Phone hubs (People, Messaging, Office, etc.) will likely grok more quickly how to work with Windows 8. For the other 99 percent -- the non-Windows Phone users out there -- Windows 8 is going to look very different and feel unlike previous versions of Windows.
For those asking, I don't know when Microsoft will make the Windows 8 CP bits available for download. Its launch event starts at 3 pm CET/9 am ET on February 29 in Barcelona. The event is not being Webcast. Nonetheless, we'll have coverage throughout the day tomorrow on ZDNet on all things Windows 8-related.